16 – Savage Islands aka Nate and Hayes (1983)

Pretty in Podcast covers the 1983 New Zealand film Savage Islands, better known as Nate and Hayes, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Michael O’Keefe and Jenny Seagrove. It was written by David Odell, based on a story by Lloyd Phillips, Rob Whitehouse and David Odell. It was, at one point, given a rewrite by John Hughes. And, if this film seems like very un-John Hughes film, there’s a very, very good reason for that . . .


“In the mid 1800’s the South Pacific Islands are subjected to constant raiding by ‘blackbirders’ (i.e. slavers). Captain ‘Bully’ Hayes· (Tommy Lee Jones) and Ben Pease (Max Phipps), once shipmates but now deadly rivals, being the main offenders, although Hayes now confines his dealings to double-dealing unwary passengers on his scow the ‘Rona’. One such passenger is Sophie (Jenny Seagrove) who is journeying with her fiance Nate (Michael O’Keefe) to an island where his missionary parents are preparing for their wedding. During the ceremony, Ben Pease and his crew attack the village wounding Nate, killing his parents, and carrying off Sophie. On recovering , Nate sets off in a small boat after Hayes who he erroneously assumes is responsible—however he discovers his mistake when rescued by Hayes after marooning himself. Together they set out in search of Sophie. Pease, meanwhile, has rendezvoused with a German Count who is secretly planning to take over the island of King Owatopi for a military base. In Samoa, Hayes and Nate discover the pair preparing to leave in the Count’s gunboat, a fight ensues during which Hayes’ boat is sunk, but commandeering Pease’s boat the ‘Leonora ‘ they set off in pursuit. On the conclusion of their negotiations with the King, Pease and the Count present him with a special gift—Sophie. The King orders her immediate sacrifice and, strapped to a spar, she is being lowered into a volcanic pit when Nate and Hayes arrive just in time to effect a brilliant rescue. They escape in the ‘Leonora’ pursued by the gunboat—Hayes once more produces a plan which spectacularly disposes of the ship. Pease however manages to survive, later informing on Hayes, and the authorities arrest him on a gunrunning charge and sentence him to be hanged. It is now Nate’s turn to show ingenuity . . . “—from the Press Kit

Select Cast and Crew

  • Tommy Lee Jones … Captain Bully Hayes
  • Michael O’Keefe … Nathaniel Williamson
  • Max Phipps … Ben Pease
  • Jenny Seagrove … Sophie
  • Grant Tilly … Count Von Rittenberg
  • Peter Rowley … Louis Beck
  • Prince Tui Teka … King of Ponapey
  • David Odell … screenplay and story
  • Lloyd Phillips … story by and producer
  • John Hughes … written by (awarded credit by WGA)
  • Ferdinand Fairfax … director and written by (uncredited)

The Soundtrack

The score was written by Trevor Jones (Excalibur, The Dark Crystal). It was released in 2010 by La-La-Land records in a limited edition of 3000 copies. Thje score was conducted by Marcus Dods and performed by The London Symphony Orchestra.

  • Main Theme From “Nate And Hayes” 1:28
  • Escape From Mumi Village / Hayes Fights Mumi Women On Bridge 3:06
  • Hayes’ And Sophie’s Pact / Sophie Disembarks / The Veranda At Night 2:25
  • The Rona Turns About (Partially Used) / Pease Attacks Village 2:14
  • Ruined Village 1:37
  • Nate Sails Off / Nate Is Shipwrecked / The Rona Turns About (Not Used In Film) 1:21
  • Sophie Ransoms Omar / Arrival At Samoa 1:32
  • German March 0:21
  • The Parting / Nate Stranded 2:12
  • Pease Hastily Departs The Leonora / Nate Goes To The Auction House / Sophie’s Escape Foiled By Omar 2:29
  • Hayes And The Men Overpower Pease Crew / Chase To The Gunboat / The Stolen Leonora Sets Sail For Ponape 3:29
  • Gunboat Pursues The Leonora / Gunboat Is Boarded 6:04
  • Gunboat Is Paralyzed 2:05
  • Sword Fight / Escape From Prison 4:08
  • End Credits 4:31h

Bonus Tracks:

There are some additional Maori or Fijian songs and chants performed in the film. If the titles are ever discovered, I’ll add them below.


Episode artwork is adapted from German poster of Insel der Piraten. Illustrator unknown.

Savage Islands Press Kit, 1983. (Click to download)


Nate and Hayes promotional photo, 1983

Additional Reading & Watching

  • “Blackbirding: Australia’s history of luring, tricking and kidnapping Pacific Islanders” by Will Higginbotham. ABC News Australia. Read it here.
  • The Notorious Captain Hayes: The Remarkable True Story of The Pirate of The Pacific by Joan Druett. Harper Collins.


Theme music by Bradley Davis (Fresh Snow). Incidental music, by Chris Storrow with sound effects by Orehek, Panzen, and TheShaggyFreak from freesound.org and “Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)” by Michael Lester from http://xeno-canto.org. This episode also includes an excerpt of “I’m Coming Out (Instrumental)” by Chic (1980).

Episode sources can be found here.

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